Civil society demonstrates at COP 11 meeting

22 Sep 2013 04:40
WINDHOEK, 22 SEP (NAMPA) – About 15 representatives from local, national, regional,and international civil society organisations (CSOs) held a peaceful demonstration during the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) here on Friday.
Local CSOs included Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA), and Earthlife Namibia.
Each of the protestors carried posters with individual words written on it. When read together it said: “Why welcome one of the drivers of land degradation as observer to the UNCCD?” in reference to agribusinesses, which they feel are monopolising the world’s natural resources.
The protestors claimed that agribusiness companies are branding their patented crops as ‘climate ready’ or ‘drought resistant’, and are making billions in profits.
Agriculture and agribusiness are projected to be a United States dollars 1 trillion-industry in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.
A statement issued by the protestors during the demonstration said that in truth, the seeds are not engineered to respond to varying climatic conditions over time in drylands, but for maximum short-term financial gains under controlled conditions.
“In addition, the pesticides promoted by agribusinesses destroy crucial micro-organisms and affect the nutrient cycle in the soil, prevent natural re-generation of the soils, resulting in continuous land degradation,” read the statement.
The group said the Parties to the Convention and observers have always been united by a common desire to mitigate the effects of land degradation on people and their livelihoods. According to the Convention, profit is not the motive behind the promotion of sustainable land management technologies and approaches that promote sustainable livelihoods in global drylands.
The protestors also questioned the incentives of agribusinesses to join UNCCD, and what they are doing to prevent land degradation.
They also want to know from UNCCD Parties and the Secretariat what the contribution of agribusiness companies is to the objectives of the UNCCD.
Meanwhile, in a telephonic interview with Nampa on Saturday, Louise Baker, the senior adviser for Partnerships at the UNCCD, said dialogue between stakeholders is crucial.
“It is okay to demonstrate and express views,” said Baker, adding that there is a need to bring all stakeholders together to discuss issues of agriculture and land degradation, sustainable land management and desertification.
These issues will be discussed again next week.
The 195 Parties (194 countries and the European Union) that have ratified the Convention, work together to improve the living conditions of people, especially in drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
It pursues its goals with a bottom-up approach, empowering the people touched by desertification and land degradation to fight it by providing the instruments and building the capacities of local authorities and civil society.